Ollantaytambo is one of the most wonderful places on the planet. (Well, we think so). Although it has definitely been caught up a bit in the tourism industry, that is not always a bad thing. Trust us, we were here ten years ago and you couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee to save your life and nothing to eat besides rice and chicken. Local restaurants and hotels have filled that void nicely, and we should also mention that tourism has honestly improved the lives of most of the local townspeople.
They are able to send their children to better schools, get better health care for their families, and no longer have to wait for six hours and then ride in the back of a truck with the cows in order to get home (most of the time) so do remember that if thinking it seems a bit more ‘touristy’ than you thought or heard it would be. Plus, trust us – this town is still quaint and by no means a modern city – the water, electricity, or telephones/internet are out of service frequently and just a kilometer or two outside of town people go about their daily farming lives very much the same as people have here for hundreds of years.
The principal attraction here is the “fortress of Ollantaytambo” an incredible structure built by the Inca Pachacuti (the same who built Machu Picchu). Interestingly, it was still in the process of being built when the Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1532, so it is a great place to see Incan construction techniques, as they literally dropped their tools in mid-progress of building the site. This site takes two hours to visit and costs 40 soles to enter on a single ticket, otherwise there are Boleto Turisticos (tourist tickets) of 70 and 140 soles that include this site and others, inquire at the gate for details.
When you finish touring the main ruins, and get back down to the bottom, take a left and go away from the main entrance where you came in but walk instead about 10 minutes uphill, to the left, and you will come to a rarely visited but incredibly awesome part of the site – our favorite ! See above, as the Incas somehow extracted perfect cubes of pure granite from the quarry wall as though they had a laser beam (some say they did, using the intense sun rays and a parabolic tool to cut the stone. Others say it was a special plant juice from the jungle. Who knows?)
There is another archaeological site right in the center of town across from the main fortress, on a mountain the locals call “Pinkylluna”. You will be happy to hear that these sites and this hike is still, for now, free of charge ! Not too many people, either. There you will find an entire mountain side literally with Inca sites everywhere. Included here are “Los Graneros”, or The Graineries, where many people feel the Incas used to store their grains due to a favorable climate. Also, look for the huge, Mt. Rushmore-like carved face of “Tunupa”